HERE'S SANTA, with less than three months to go before his big night, and he's sitting in his rocker by the fireplace.

Normally, that would be a good thing, an iconic picture of joyful Christmastime repose.

But these are not normal times.

It is the middle of the afternoon. Santa should be out supervising the elves and their last-minute toy making, and going over logistics with Rudolph - that sort of stuff.

But seen in the flickering light cast by a dying fire, Santa's expression reveals that he is not in good cheer. In fact, he seems completely stressed. His snow-white beard is unkempt and graying. The trademark twinkle is gone from his eyes, replaced with a mirthless fatigue. He's lost weight.

"It's not been a ho-ho-ho kind of year," he confesses, gazing contemplatively into the crackling embers.

The cause of Santa's winter of discontent? Global warming.

That well-documented phenomenon, the melting of the Arctic ice cap, is forcing Santa to move from his one and only home and into a three-story neo-gingerbread-style green house that he designed and built himself.

The peril Santa faces is evident outside the window of his old house, the one he and Mrs. Claus have called home all their lives, the one that he, now sitting in its living room, seems to be having a very hard time leaving. His front yard of glistening ice used to extend to the horizon; now the Arctic waters lap only 30 feet from his doorstep.

"Another year or two, and this place will be completely submerged," he says. "As it is, the elves keep falling in the drink, and I have to keep fishing them out.

In this exclusive interview, Santa is anything but jolly.

AMERICAN WAY: So, how's the move going?